gap year in israel

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Hey everyone, my name is Jess Dworcan from Johannesburg, South Africa. Coming on this program was not a very well organised, structured or thought out decision. The day the program started I was on the phone with Simon explaining that I may not come at all but decided last minute that I would be missing an enormous opportunity. My following week was an insane rush. The program started on a Tuesday, 3 days later, during Shabbat dinner, I booked my flight to arrive the following Tuesday in Israel and I remember very vividly how hard it was for my loving grandparents to wrap their heads around me not coming to the next Shabbat dinner.

My first week on the program was one of the most insane weeks of my life. Meeting a number of new faces, being reunited with family and being inducted into what is commonly known as ‘Apartment 10’ (the Headassery) was what made it so spectacular. And because I was not here for the official first week of the program, I got to meet the TLV kids later on.

I heard about this program when Simon first came to speak at my school in Johannesburg South Africa. An interesting fact about this is that I came late to that talk and missed the first half of his speech. My punctuality is something that still, to this day, gets me in trouble. I do not mean to be late but it is deeply rooted in my culture as a South African, that when tea starts at 3:00pm on a Saturday, you arrive at 3:45pm with chocolates and an apology (I’m sorry Natali and Shay-El, I hope you enjoyed the chocolates I gave to you today).

My vocabulary and that of those around me has strengthened since being on Aardvark. I have both taught and learned many words from the different cultures around the world and from South Africa. Two words stand out to me, one of which was new to me and the other new to everyone else.

Verb – do (something) in a subtle and delicate manner.

An important word on this program and one deeply rooted in American culture. I was taught this valuable word by roommates and will continue to use it for the rest of my life.


Noun – a party

A slang word which is deeply rooted in the South African culture that I taught the Americans. Aardvark is a fat jol. I have had so much fun since arriving in Israel. The activities Aardvark has organised for us such as rock climbing, watching a basketball game, touring the Gaza border and more make it so much fun. And when Thursday hits, the jol continues in the clubs of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.

A huge part of this program is the internships that we do in the mornings. I am so happy with my internship, working for a talk show company based in Tel-Aviv. During the week my time is spent on my laptop finding potential companies for the show to interview, creating content for their social media platforms and uploading stock footage to stock mojo of beautiful aerial views of the different parts of Israel filmed on a drone. On weekends I travel through to TLV to pitch my ideas and share my work with my boss and co-workers.

There are 2 amazing people in my life that deserve so much gratitude from me for allowing me the opportunity to come on this program. Because of them, I have made so many insane memories that will last forever. Because of them, I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. Thank you so much, Mom and Dad, for all of this. I love you with all my heart and miss you tons.

Thanks so much as well to all the staff on Aardvark, especially the madrichim, who work tireless jobs in order to ensure that my fellow chanichim and I are having a good time.

Jess Dworcan
Aardvark 2018